Tiny Toones breakdancers, including Diamond (centre), at an event last year. Photo by: Pha Lina
A group of youngsters stands and sits at a Phnom Penh drop-in centre observing a young woman rehearse her energetic break dance moves in front of a mirror to a pounding dance beat.
Diamond is the only female among 12 Cambodian break dancers from the Tiny Toones dance troupe who, by now, will be in Australia ready to perform seven shows from today until January 14 at the Chapel off Chapel arts centre in Melbourne. The shows will feature music and breakdancing choreographed by themselves and inspired by their lives in Cambodia.
Starting in the 1960s, scenes move through the Khmer Rouge period following the destruction of arts and culture in the Kingdom, through to the regime’s aftermath of a devastated country. They perform true life stories of drug addiction, human trafficking, begging and exploitation; themes common back then and still part of reality today.
Tuy Sobil, a.k.a. KK, is the founder of Tiny Toones and is excited to be taking his performers on their biggest tour yet. “We get a few opportunities to travel overseas to perform, but this is our biggest to date. We have received unbelievable support from Chapel off Chapel, the Melbourne-based Khmer community and AVI (Australian Volunteers International). Romi Grossberg is an AVI working with Tiny Toones and has spent the best part of 6 months organising this tour.”
Chheoung Reuth, known as Shhort, is the general manager at Tiny Toones and though he is not going to Australia, says that the tour has changed the whole of the organisation. “Something really big like this makes all of our participants feel like there are real chances for them in life to be able to travel and see new worlds. In their everyday lives they can see a Kangaroo on television – if they work hard and stay positive they can make that real. This is what Tiny Toones is all about.
“Another wonderful opportunity is for the Australian Cambodian community to see what we are doing and where Cambodia is at right now for the kids. Tiny Toones is getting more recognition overseas, especially in the B-Boy communities, but we want to make sure that the Melbourne-based Cambodians see us for what we are,” Chheoung Reuth says.
Diamond says she learned to break dance six years ago with Tuy Sobil at Tiny Toones. “There are about 30 girls under my supervision now. At first it was only me, but over a period of time some Khmer women come to learn break dancing with us,” Diamond said.
“At first I thought I may not be as strong as the men, but I think I’m about my half way. I am happy and feel optimistic to perform internationally,” Diamond said.